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Houston Theater Awards

From actors to designers, directors to technicians, the city's brightest talent gets its due.

Best Ensemble

The Coast of Utopia at Main Street

This cast demonstrated that a beautiful mosaic can be composed of individual brilliance, brought together and fused into a majestic whole by the skill of director and cast. As brilliant as specific characterizations were, they always blossomed from the rich earth of Mother Russia — no matter that a setting might be Paris — and were bound together by the glue of a talkative society in upheaval. The cast enfolds us in that world and holds us close as we savor its disparate dreams, anxious arguments, loves, betrayals and inexorable need to see beyond the horizon.

The Coast of Utopia at Main Street Theater
The Coast of Utopia at Main Street Theater
Next to Normal at Stages Repertory Theatre
Bruce Bennett
Next to Normal at Stages Repertory Theatre

Finalists: Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson (Generations Theatre Company); Evil Dead (Stage Door, Inc., Pasadena); Noises Off (Alley Theatre); and Sanctified (Ensemble Theatre).

Best Gem of a Theater

The Houston Family Arts Center

The Houston Family Arts Center consistently provides superior theater in its own handsome theater, tucked away in a strip mall in northwest Houston, and often rents the nearby 456-seat Berry Center Theater for musical productions. This year it outdid itself by commissioning and then producing a comedic mystery drama from noted playwright Rob Urbinati, and the result was a most entertaining success. It also produced the world premiere of the musical Kissless, and raised $75,000 to enter it in a NYC competition and run it off-B'way for several weeks.

Finalist: Stage Door Inc. in Pasadena, for high-energy, ensemble brilliance for Evil Dead and Avenue Q, among others.

Best Trouper

Andy Ingalls (Thunderclap Productions)

In Andy Ingalls's one-man performance in Conor McPherson's Rum and Vodka from Thunderclap Productions, he portrays an Irish youth trapped in a boring job and life who snaps and turns to a familiar solace, alcohol, this time on an extended bender avoiding both work and family. Onstage by himself, Ingalls provides a gripping, varied portrait, giving us the degradation, hope and despair of a youth cursed with enough imagination to see his problems but not enough to solve them. Ingalls perfectly matched McPherson's ruthlessly honest writing, and his one-man tour de force is relentless and fascinating as he flees his ­demons.

Finalists: Tamarie Cooper as Herself in Doomsday (Catastrophic Theatre); and Todd Waite as Crumpet the Elf in The Santaland Diaries (Alley).

Best College Theater

University of Houston

The University of Houston had two outstanding productions this year. Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan, directed by Steve Wallace, established Irish rusticity with brogues as thick as peat and authentically stained costumes. It had gripping portrayals by Joshua Kyle Hoppe as Cripple Billy and Colin David as brutal Babbybobby. Arthur Miller's The Crucible was directed by guest director Gus Kaikkonen, who found the humanity behind Miller's moralizing, in a deeply moving production, enhanced by superb performances by Benjamin Reed as John Proctor and Shannon Hill as his wife, Elizabeth, and a brilliant set by Mark Krouskop.

Finalist: Rice University. They even made the floor tilt in The Drunken City.

Best Playwright

Miki Johnson, American Falls

Actress Miki Johnson added a new credit to her résumé this year: playwright. Her debut play, American Falls, presented by the Catastrophic Theatre Company, where she's a member, played to rave reviews. The play begins with the line "Let me tell you a story," but this is no ordinary story — it's magical and wonderful and a marvelous start to what we hope is a long and prolific writing career. (Johnson's second play, Fleaven, is already in production with Catastrophic.)

Finalists: L. Robert Westeen, Cocaine & Ethel Merman: The New Homo Guide; Kathy Drum, 13 Miles From Security; and Peter Wittenberg Jr., PRE, one of The Coitus Plays.

Best Risk

The Coast of Utopia (Main Street Theater)

It took immense nerve for Artistic Director Rebecca Greene Udden to take on this trilogy of plays calling for an immense cast and with talky subject matter. The rehearsal schedule was brutal for the actors who signed on. They practiced throughout the holidays — okay, they took Christmas Day off — to have it ready for the first play's opening night. What could have bankrupted her theater instead was the hit of the season. She counted on there being an audience of intelligent people out there in Houston, and she found it. The entire company of players and technicians should be applauded as well, as they joined in Udden's vision by throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the project.

Finalists: Alley Theatre for its New Play Initiatives bringing new plays to the stage, and Houston Grand Opera's HGOco for Song of Houston: East + West, a series of original chamber operas.

Best Season

Catastrophic Theatre

Few theater companies can hope to have a hit show each and every time out, but Catastrophic Theatre managed to pull it off during the 2011-12 season. Things started off last September with There Is a Happiness That Morning Is by Mickle Maher, staged in the company's micro-theater (also known as its office) with Troy Schulze and Amy Bruce as a couple who'd made love on a college lawn — in full view of the students and staff. Then there was the musical play Anna Bella Eema, with Elissa Levitt, Ivy Castle and Jessica Janes as a trio of homebound women living in a trailer park that's about to be torn down in order to make room for a highway. The avant-garde one-act won rave reviews. That was followed by Endgame by Samuel Beckett. Beckett in the capable hands of director Jason Nodler, with Greg Dean, Mikelle Johnson, Joel Orr and Troy Schulze onstage, made for a thrilling night of theater. Then it was Mikelle Johnson's hit debut play American Falls, a sort of Our Town with a twist. And the company's annual bit of musical silliness, this time called Tamarie Cooper's DOOMSDAY REVUE (The Greatest Musical Ever!), closed out the season.

Finalist: Main Street Theater.

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8 comments
cutemutt1976
cutemutt1976

The Poets was by far the most darring show of the year! It was the only real show to tackle bullying with breakthrough performances. I hear it's going to be produced in New York.

roncaguey2
roncaguey2

These awards are a joke. How can the saddest news in theatre be the capricious closing of a theatre, managed by a control freak, when the tragic death of Laura Beth Botkin, the extraordinary lead (Kate Monster) of Avenue Q. Also, no awards were given to Avenue Q, even when your own critic attested that the production was exceptional and in many instances than the one performed in Broadway. No even a mention for Tell me on a Sunday, an epic performance by Rachel Landon with a superb group of musicians. I don't know who the judges are, or if there is a committee or what, but I don't even think that are based on a real assessment of the productions. 

tedmuscl2muscl
tedmuscl2muscl

I find it totally refreshing that the Alley has only received several awards. The Alley is no longer the best theatre in town although they still consider themselves just that. Smaller theatres have finally eclipsed the downtown fortress and shown the Alley that great theatre is happening everywhere in our city, thanks to fabulous artistic directors who continue to push the envelope of cutting edge theatre. Forward we go!

tedmuscl2muscl
tedmuscl2muscl

I did award sound design in plays and musicals in my Buzzy Awards. and also Best Ensemble Awards. Google “Buzzy Awards” and it will take you to my winners.

slumpville
slumpville like.author.displayName 1 Like

Ad5os, Better their personal opinions than a popularity contest, whereby the largest theater in town runs away with every award, because those shows have larger houses. These awards are absolutely wonderful. HP, I wonder if you might consider adding sound design next year for an award next year. Sound design often goes unrecognized in reviews and such. It would be cool to see them in these awards next time around. Great job on the awards! Thanks!

Ad5os
Ad5os

Awesome! I don't know who the judges were or how decisions were made as to who was "Better" or even what the credentials are of these judges to make these sort of judgements are so maybe that could be explained but I imagine it is a similar process as your best of Houston series where the best is just the most arbitrary place that your friend works at. And opera shouldn't be included? Wtf. Anyway I think this is a great idea even if it isn't like the academy awards and some of the categories are a bit silly. This town needs all the help the press can give in drumming up business and promoting new theatrical experiences. As an performer I would love to see 5x more theaters being sold out every night. Even weekdays! This is a huge town and I feel we could be doing way better if we didn't have to compete against the mindless crap on corporate TV and Movies. Thanks Press for doing the right thing and recognizing the best out there...even if it is just your own personal opinions. :)

tedmuscl2muscl
tedmuscl2muscl

This is great and you share many of the same players with my BUZZY AWARDS but you really need to break down Best Actor and Actress and Best Supporting Actor and Actress in plays and musicals. And all technical awards need also be broken down between plays and musicals. Best artistic director is not a valid entry in my opinion or the most improved category. I do not believe you should include opera productions. Although opera IS theatre, I think you need to specifically concentrate on theatre (plays and musicals). Otherwise, this is quite complete and it’s about time someone other than myself should be honoring the amazing work of theatres in our fair city. (I have posted awards for the past 4 seasons.)

 
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